Let me introduce you to my friend, Jack. He is the guy to know if you want to be invited to all the right parties. He always seems to be in the midst of the fun crowd. He makes a lot of jokes and is the king of sarcasm. Sometimes what he has to say might come across as mean … but really he is just kidding. He can talk about anything—politics, reality television and sports. He has an opinion on everything. Come to think of it, I can tell you what Jack thinks about every subject under the sun. He does seem to talk a lot, about himself mostly. But that is OK—he makes me laugh. I am sure he doesn’t mean to interrupt me when I am talking. I wouldn’t mention it if I were you. He tends to get a little defensive. I would just avoid the subject altogether. You do not want him on your bad side. I have heard about people who have crossed him. He definitely holds a grudge. But he is such a funny guy; he really is fun to hang around with, so you can forget all of that other stuff I said.
Jack is very successful at everything he does. He is always talking about his latest accomplishment at work or about his latest conquest with the ladies. Come to think of it, I don’t know much about Jack’s family or how he grew up. I don’t know much about how he is dealing with life really. We don’t talk about that stuff. We talk mostly about what restaurants to go to, what movies are playing, etc. There was a good game on last night, and we all went to Jack’s house. It was a blast. I did notice him get quiet at the end of the evening, but I am sure he was just tired. I asked him what was wrong, and he said he was fine, so I am sure he was. Jack is always fine. Jack is always great. Some might call him a little conceited, but I don’t think he is. I am sure he is just confident in who he is; after all, who wouldn’t be if they were him? He has it all going for him. What would he have to complain about?
I have another friend to introduce you to. Her name is Jenna. Jenna is kind of quiet. She doesn’t go to all the parties, although you will find her at some. She is usually in a corner talking to someone. She is a great listener and asks really good questions. She is someone I like to go to when I have a problem because she doesn’t even pretend to have all of the answers. She is honest about her struggles and her failures and even tells me stories about how she messed up again, which makes me feel encouraged or even that I can find answers. She doesn’t interrupt me when I talk, and she thinks a long time before giving advice or encouragement. If she doesn’t know what to say—she’s honest and tells me so instead of making up an answer. She is one of the few people I know who will be honest and tell you if she is not fine when you ask her how she is.
The other day when I saw her at work and asked her how she was, she said, “I could cry.” Wow, that really threw me. When I asked her more about it, she told me that God was showing her new areas in her life that were broken and needed His love. We ended up having a great conversation about God and life, and I ended up realizing that sometimes I could cry, too. And I actually felt like that was OK and not something I needed to hide.
One time I did something terrible to Jenna. I really did—if someone had done to me what I did to Jenna, I don’t think we would be friends anymore—but do you know what Jenna did? She listened to my apology and hugged me. She said that she was hurt by what I did, but that it was OK. She messes up sometimes too, she said, and she forgave me. It has been several months now, and she has had many opportunities to throw that back in my face … but she hasn’t.
Which one of these friends do you want to get to know? Which one of these friends do you want to be?
I think in high school I definitely would have wanted to know Jack. He was popular—part of the in-crowd, the funny guy. In high school that would have been so attractive to me. What I realize now is that Jack is wearing a mask. He is holding onto his mask very tightly in order to maintain control over his world. Rather than letting people in and showing them some of the brokenness inside of himself, he hides behind his accomplishments and successes. He makes sure to project a façade to the world that he is on top of things. If he does have pain and hurt, he hides it carefully behind sarcasm and defensiveness or by being funny. If someone wrongs him or if he wrongs someone else, he chooses to cut them off instead of dealing with the conflict. He can live like this for a long time. But I wonder how much life will change for him if he is always hiding. I wonder how many people will be able to break through the wall he has put up and see the real Jack. I wonder if anyone ever will.
Look at Jenna. Jenna is living in her brokenness. She is transparent with others, letting them see that she doesn’t have it all together. She is not perfect and doesn’t waste time and energy trying to be. She doesn’t feel the need to be the center of attention all the time and takes time to listen to others. When she messes up, she says so. She apologizes and moves on—and in doing so is able to forgive others as well. Because sometimes Jenna is messy and lets people know she is hurting, some people might call her needy. But I think she is courageous. She is just being honest about who she is without wearing the mask. Sure it gets hard sometimes, but I can see how much Jenna has grown by doing it. And I have benefited from her hard work in our friendship as well. I would not have her any other way.
So which of these friends do you want to get to know? Which of these friends do you want to be like? Do you have a collection of masks that you put on each day? Or are you trying to take masks off with trusted safe people, and let them see your brokenness? I know what my answer is. What’s yours?